As the world gathers for the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP 28) in Dubai, the urgency of addressing climate change takes centre stage. In a compelling speech leading up to the conference, President William Ruto underscored the critical role of Africa in the global effort to combat climate change. His speech to the EU Parliament not only recognized the challenges posed by climate change but also highlighted Africa’s unique position as a catalyst for sustainable growth and a key player in shaping global climate solutions.
President Ruto’s speech emphasised the dual nature of climate change; a formidable existential threat and an unexpected levelling force. It echoed the sentiment that, in the face of a shared global challenge, climate change knows no boundaries, transcending traditional divisions between North and South, East and West, developed and developing nations. This perspective sets the stage for a united front at COP 28, where countries across the globe must work collaboratively to confront the complex issue of climate change.
Central to the discourse was Africa’s commitment to real and tangible action. The inaugural Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi, preceding COP 28, served as a crucial platform. The Summit wasn’t merely a forum to discuss challenges but a stage to present solutions and opportunities. The resulting Nairobi Declaration outlined Africa’s vision and a clear pathway for the continent to be an integral part of the global solution to the existential climate challenge.
The speech celebrated Africa’s untapped renewable energy potential, its young and fast-growing workforce, and abundant natural resources. It emphasised that Africa possesses 60% of the world’s best solar potential and over 60% of the remaining unused arable land globally. These assets, when harnessed effectively, position Africa to lead in producing green-from-the-start, cost-competitive products and services. Moreover, Africa can offer some of the highest-quality carbon removal services, contributing significantly to global climate goals.
While Africa’s potential is vast, Dr Ruto’s speech didn’t shy away from the disparities in the continent’s green economy compared to that of the European Union. Over 600 million Africans lack access to energy, a fundamental prerequisite for dignified living. The global narrative often emphasises energy transition, but for most of Africa, it’s about energy growth and expansion. This stark reality sets the context for the challenges Africa faces and the importance of real solutions at COP 28.
President Ruto made a compelling case for investing in education and skill development as a means to create a vibrant, self-sustaining economy in Africa. By empowering the youth with education and opportunities, Africa can build a workforce that contributes to green growth and reduces the pressure on regions like Europe, which often rely on economic migrants to maintain their standards of living.
A pivotal aspect highlighted in the speech was Africa’s commitment to providing high-quality carbon credits. The call for market access and the demand for green products and services, coupled with stringent standards and integrity, underscored Africa’s determination to be a reliable and responsible contributor to global climate solutions.
As COP 28 approaches, the call to action is clear. Africa is not only seeking solutions for its own challenges but is ready to play a leading role in global climate action. The imperatives include securing the right type and amount of capital, demanding market access, aligning concessional and multilateral capital, and addressing economic challenges to unlock Africa’s immense potential.
President Ruto’s speech provides a compelling narrative for COP 28; an opportunity for the global community to acknowledge Africa’s unique position and contribute to unleashing its potential for sustainable growth and climate solutions. As the world convenes in Dubai, the spotlight is on getting real about climate action in Africa, fostering collaboration, and turning aspirations into concrete, transformative outcomes. The decisions made at COP 28 will not only shape the trajectory of Africa’s development but will also determine the success of global climate initiatives for generations to come.